How to eat out on the low FODMAP with confidence.
Eating out low FODMAP might seem like a daunting and impossible task. But with some preparation, you can enjoy your favorite restaurants without worrying about your medical condition.
Can I eat out on a low FODMAP diet?
To get it out of the way: Yes, you can go to a restaurant during the elimination phase of the diet.
Here are a few tips to help make it a bit easier and less stressful:
Know Your Restrictions
Talk to your registered dietitian about your specific restrictions and understand which foods are a low FODMAP option and which aren't.
Plan Ahead: Choose a cuisine
Some cuisines are naturally lower in FODMAPs or can be easily modified, such as gluten-free pizza, Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai.
Restaurants offering gluten-free options and accommodating dietary restrictions such as dairy-free make great choices. The menu offers more low FODMAP options to choose from.
Many restaurants also have allergy menus that make it easier to spot what will work. You can also call the restaurant ahead to ask about dishes and replacement options.
Most restaurants are happy to accommodate special requests. Still, they must know in advance to prepare the food properly.
Take a few minutes to research restaurant menus. You can look up the menu online and look for dishes that meet your dietary requirements before making a reservation or heading out for dinner.
Protein-based meals such as roasted chicken and grilled fish or meats are a great choice. Verify whether the meat has been marinated or seasoned, which includes onion and garlic.
You can ask for your protein to be baked in olive oil and flavored with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to steer clear of any triggers. Always ask for additional sauces and dressings to be served on the side.
Most protein-based meals are served with salad, white or brown rice, yellow baked potato, French fries (no sweet potatoes), and steamed vegetables on the side. You can ask for specific low-FODMAP veggies to go with your protein, such as arugula, spinach, carrots, cucumber, and green beans (up to 15 beans).
Pure sour cream can be eaten and used as a replacement in cream dishes. Heavily sauced, rich dishes (such as curries and pastas) are harder to modify as FODMAPS (garlic and onion) likely leaked into the dish during the cooking process. This also applies to dishes made with stock, such as risotto and soups.
Be Specific About Your Order
When placing an order with restaurant staff, clarify the ingredients in dishes on the restaurant menu and explain what you can and cannot eat. Be specific about what foods need to be excluded or substituted to make it low FODMAP.
For example, you don't eat wheat. You would like gluten-free pasta, gluten-free crust for pizza, low FODMAP toppings such as hard cheeses like parmigiana and the green parts of spring onions, corn tortillas instead of wheat, a lettuce wrap instead of a hamburger bun and so on.
You might be asked about cross contamination, you can explain that you don't have an allergy but currently follow a medical diet called the low FODMAP diet. Explaining low FODMAP to staff members takes time and patience.
Don't be discouraged if it takes longer for your order to arrive or if your meal is not as you expected. Remember to thank the staff for their effort and patience.
Avoid Sauces, Dressings & Seasonings
Whenever possible, ask for your food to be cooked without sauces, salad dressings, or seasonings. Restaurants are happy to accommodate this request. You can also ask for garlic-free sauces, request onion to be excluded, and not season your side salad. For additional flavor, you can request the restaurant to use garlic infused olive oil.
Dipping sauces such as condiments are primarily high in FODMAPs, so you will want to avoid things like ketchup, relishes, and BBQ sauce.
Ask About Hidden Ingredients
If you need clarification on whether a dish contains any FODMAPs, feel free to ask your server. They should be able to provide information about the ingredients used in each dish.
Some commonly hidden ingredients are garlic and onion, garlic powder, onion powder, broth-based dishes, tomato sauce, and desserts containing high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.
Be Flexible to Modify your Meal
If a restaurant has few options, make do with what is available. Feel free to skip the restaurant altogether.
Share a Meal
If your fellow diners are willing, consider sharing a meal with them. This can be a great way to sample different dishes without ingesting too much of the same FODMAP group.
Prepare for the night
During the day, try to avoid any triggers and consume small portions. Bring a few snacks if you're worried about hunger pangs setting in during your meal. This way you won't go hungry.
Enjoy Your Meal
Eating out on a low FODMAP diet can be tricky, but it doesn't have to be all stress and worry. Remember to enjoy your meal and savor each bite. Take some time to appreciate the flavors and aromas of your meal, and you're sure to have a satisfying experience.
Can I eat fast food on low FODMAP?
The answer to that question is it depends. Fast food is typically high in fat and sugar, which can be difficult for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, many fast foods contain ingredients that may have FODMAPs, like onion, garlic, and wheat.
Traveling on the low FODMAP diet
Meal planning is more complex when you travel - no surprise there!
New cuisines, disrupted meal times, and less regular exercise can all contribute to symptoms. You can continue to follow a low FODMAP diet while traveling; however, we don't recommend reintroducing new foods or FODMAPs while on vacation.
Some more specific ideas for keeping your trip symptom-free:
- Pack low FODMAP snacks in your carry-on bag
- Order a gluten-free meal for the flight (but watch out for high FODMAP ingredients)
- Book accommodation with a kitchen to prepare your low-fodmap recipes
- Learn how to say "no onion and garlic" in the local language
- Avoid sneaky food additives in processed foods.
What happens if you cheat on a low FODMAP diet?
Cheating on a low FODMAP diet can cause stomach discomfort, bloating, and other digestive symptoms. Eating large amounts of high FODMAP ingredients or eating them too often can overwhelm your gut, leading to an uncomfortable IBS flare-up.
It is vital to stick to the recommended serving size of high-FODMAP foods and only consume them occasionally.
Additionally, it is essential to work with a qualified registered dietitian. They will help you follow the low FODMAP diet correctly, minimize any negative impacts on your gut health, and reintroduce high FODMAP foods correctly.
What Chinese food is low in FODMAP?
One of the great things about Chinese restaurants is that there are many delicious and low FODMAP options. Some of these include:
- Steamed chicken or fish with vegetables such as cucumber, baby corn, and bok choy. Be sure to ask for no added sauces or ingredients to keep it low FODMAP friendly.
- Fried rice or stir-fries made with a low FODMAP sauce such as hoisin sauce or soy sauce. And vegetables such as bean sprouts, peppers, and baby corn.
- Steamed pork or chicken dumplings, or fried in olive oil. Be sure to ask for no added garlic or onion.
- Egg drop soup made from chicken stock and eggs.
- Chow mein dishes made with rice noodles and low FODMAP vegetables such as bean sprouts or bok choy.
These are just some of the low FODMAP options available with Chinese food. Consume soy sauce in moderate amounts.
Happy low FODMAP Eating
Eating out can be a challenge when following a low FODMAP diet. Still, with careful planning and knowledge of what to look for in the ingredients list, it is possible to enjoy fast food while still sticking to your diet and avoiding IBS symptoms.
With these tips, you can find delicious low-FODMAP meals in any restaurant. Bon appetite!